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With PUMA and Liberty London, the European Championships become the showcase for women's football

We went to London to preview the jerseys and interview national team center forward Cristina Girelli

With PUMA and Liberty London, the European Championships become the showcase for women's football We went to London to preview the jerseys and interview national team center forward Cristina Girelli

As the date of July 6, when England and Austria will kick off their first match at 9 p.m., approaches in stride, the Women's European Football Championship is gearing up to be one of the most anticipated events of the sports summer. Not only because of the value of the athletes on the field, with the best players from our continent facing each other, but finally a recognized interest also from the major sportswear brands, which have created special kits for the national teams involved. And PUMA, technical sponsor of the Italian Football Federation, has chosen this event to create jerseys that enhance both the performance and stylistic aspects of women's football, creating a collaboration with the historic London-based brand Liberty.

An approach that is no more different from the one used for colleagues in the men's national team-and colleagues here is no longer a figure of speech since from next season women's soccer in Italy will enter professionalism-bringing fashion and soccer closer together. "If they had told me 14 years ago, when I started my career in women's football, that I would be here at an event like this, I would have believed it little but it is the result of our work and we also deserve it a little bit," Cristiana Girelli, the Juventus and Italian national team's forward and PUMA Testimonial, tells us. We are in London, in the heart of Covent Garden for the launch event of the jerseys made by the German brand for the national teams of Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Iceland, in collaboration with Liberty. An afternoon dedicated to soccer in all its forms, from freestyle and tricks to screen printing jerseys as a reminder to those present.

"It's beautiful to be here, it makes you feel important, this is, and it makes us realize how nice it would be to one day get to Italy too to organize such an event maybe taking other European realities as an example." London has fully embraced women's football, having done so last year with men's, through a series of dedicated events and activations demonstrating that there are no differences here in the home of the Beautiful Game. "For me it's really a great way to start such an important event, and the fact that PUMA is placing such importance on it makes me very proud." Indeed, this European Championship could be a watershed in the history of women's soccer, particularly in Italy. "Every European competition gives you the opportunity to leave a mark just as the World Cup did. I am sure that we will face the European with a certain awareness and our confidence, but also the serenity that a European does not happen every year and that you also have to have fun, this will be our mentality," Girelli confides to us.

The big appointments are key to changing the perception about a movement that will finally enter professionalism next year, ensuring an easier future for all the girls who dream of a career behind a football. "It's an important step for our culture in Italy and an important moment for the whole movement because it gives young female football players who are entering the sport the chance to be able to make it their job, something that was unthinkable just a while ago. Now the next thing to do is to organize, to structure the clubs in the best way possible to give the conditions for a female football player to improve and grow without having to make sacrifices." And Girelli's generation has well in mind the sacrifices and difficulties encountered to get to this point, so much so that when she is asked what advice she would give to a young sportswoman her answer is very incisive: "One should not take all this for granted."

Certainly seeing the national team jerseys made by PUMA in collaboration with Liberty feels like we are at the center of a historic change in which even kits for women have become fashionable items to be worn on and off the field. We have seen it in recent times how much the stylistic aspect of soccer can be a vehicle to get the sport to those who do not normally follow the athletes' exploits on the pitch: "I think soccer is many things but also aesthetics, being accompanied by such a special, vintage and original jersey is something more. It makes you enter the field saying how nice."

PUMA and Liberty chose to work on the template also used by the men's national team for the jersey in the Final, lost at Wembley to Argentina, but transformed two of the four dials into the ton-sur-ton rose fields that are one of the London brand's trademarks. The West End store, which has been making floral-inspired Art Nouveau prints for 150 years, is not at its first collaboration with PUMA, having also created a lifestyle collection together. A partnership that is already well established, then, and perfectly in line with PUMA's desire to make this European Championship a unique showcase for women's football by enhancing the fashion side of the jerseys.

This is also confirmed to me by the two designers responsible for the creation of the kits of the four national teams, a capsule that in addition to the game jerseys also includes lifestyle elements. "This collaboration is a brand partnership that overlaps with the visual identity already created for the federations, we have the same blocks used for the men's national team but with the addition of Liberty London's floral pattern." It is a collection that follows both the trend of local collaborations-"we said to ourselves, since London will be the stage for the most important women's soccer event of the year, why not partner with a local brand to elevate the product we already had"-and the trend of luxury collaborations with a brand that is "extremely recognizable thanks to its bold and iconic patterns." Along with the jersey, two pairs of PUMA football shoes, the FUTURE 1.4 and the ULTRA ULTIMATE, were customized, both again using the floral prints on the heel. 

The direction taken by PUMA is thus set. The support toward women's soccer is not just a pose of convenience, but a true investment that starts with the national team to embrace the whole movement ahead of the London 2022 European Championship. As Girelli points out, "the goal is definitely to go all the way thinking match by match as was the leitmotif of the World Cup with the desire to try but above all to believe in it because this was the mentality that led men's Italy to win. They did not start as favorites and yet they succeeded in something extraordinary, so following their example we will try to do something extraordinary as well."